HHDA, Our Story
HISTORIC HATTIESBURG DOWNTOWN ASSOCIATION
Organized efforts to address the changing climate of Downtown Hattiesburg began in the late 1970s as new strip malls continued to develop and a regional, enclosed mall opened. In 1985 as city officials expressed interest in developing a more formal program, Hattiesburg was selected as one of the original five Main Street communities in Mississippi by the National Main Street Program. Initially, Main Street was a program of the City of Hattiesburg with the Board of Directors appointed by the Mayor and the manager hired by the City. The major accomplishments of the program during its early years included:
- Infrastructure improvements with new traffic patterns and streets, new sidewalks, buried utilities, new vehicle level lighting and landscaping (street trees, etc.)
- Redesign and construction of the Civic Center including a new park, plaza with fountain and renovation of City Hall and the adjacent community center
- Creation of the Hattiesburg Redevelopment Authority that used revenue bonds to fund renovation of privately owned offices and other buildings
- Establishment of downtown events such as two large street festivals and smaller arts events such as lunchtime outdoor concerts.
The Main Street program operated with this system until the early 1990s, when it was becoming more and more apparent that stronger private sector involvement and investment would be necessary in order to take downtown revitalization to higher levels and to recruit new businesses and activities. Consequently, Main Street as a city funded and controlled program was phased out, and efforts began to take the program into a true public-private partnership.
By the mid- to late 90s, the reorganization of the Downtown Hattiesburg Association was well under way. A dedicated group of private sector leaders worked with City planners to structure a new organization. New by-laws were written, a Board of Directors was elected and goals and objectives were outlined. The organization’s first full-time staff person was hired. In 1999 a substantial partnership with the City was in place with funding provided by them on a year-to-year basis. Private membership was growing as well, and proposals were sought for development of a new strategic plan (to be funded by the City). As a result the downtown consulting team of HyettPalma was hired, and in partnership with the Downtown Association and City staff members, developed the Downtown Hattiesburg Economic Enhancement Strategy 2000, a seven-year plan.
The mission and vision for the Hattiesburg Downtown Association was stated in that plan in the as the Downtown Vision 2007:
Hattiesburg would be a thriving economic center that draws local residents and tourists alike. Downtown buildings would be fully occupied with a mixture of uses, including more retail choices offered through small scale, high quality retail shops, art and cultural facilities; restaurants; educational components; cultural components; businesses and uses that attract William Carey College and University of Southern Mississippi students; galleries that are numerous and open regular hours; a museum dedicated to the history of the city; weekly farmers and crafts market; city and county government offices; lodging facilities; and residential uses.
The themes of art and historic preservation would be strong components of the ideal Downtown Hattiesburg of 2007. Downtown would be filled with the arts – both visual and performing. And quality public art would be found throughout Downtown.
Downtown would be highly pedestrian friendly. One-way streets would be eliminated, and people would be encouraged to walk within Downtown. In addition, there would be sidewalks linking Downtown and nearby neighborhoods.
By the year 2007, Downtown Hattiesburg would have this image:
A vital economic center that is the “real thing” and the embodiment of smart growth – 100 plus years old with surrounding neighborhoods full of people ready to support Downtown.
A safe, clean and friendly place that has a distinctive character of its own due to its reverence for the past and beautifully renovated buildings.
An identifiable heart of the city – a center – that is progressive; we keep making it better and better.
A one-of-a-kind destination filled with the unusual and the hard to find.
It’s where things are going on – the best of what we have is in Downtown.
A great place to invest, a great place to live, it’s the place to be and the place to go.
An irresistible and unique place that makes you want to come, explore, stay more, and return again and again. — HyettPalma, 11-29-99